Thursday, 2 September 2010

The benefits of boredom...

It may sound a contradiction in terms, but boredom can actually have its benefits. Being bored can provide the opportunity for a creative hiatus, and even be the motivating factor behind your next great idea!
Boredom is said to fall into two categories, situational and repetitive. Situational boredom describes those occasions when hanging about with nothing to do is necessary: waiting for a bus, for example. Repetitive boredom occurs from doing the same routine task over and over again. This can include some activity you once enjoyed, but which now palls.
Sometimes we experience boredom because we have developed a need for instant gratification, part of our do-it-now/have-it-now mentality. Many activities, like surfing the Net, can play into this. How much time have you spent doing just that in a futile bid to avoid boredom? Maybe you would have been better off accepting you were bored, then used this stimulus to find something you really wanted to engage with.
But while it is often condemned - 'the Devil finds work for idle hands', as the old adage goes - being bored provides some useful 'time out', allowing us the opportunity to clear the mind and see what percolates up. To mull over, consider, reject and re-consider, ideas and possibilities.
For children especially, being kept relentlessly busy is counter-productive. Without the experience of boredom, how can you learn the self-motivation to alleviate it? It's an important and necessary stage of intellectual development.
Don't fight it, when boredom comes knocking, but succumb to it and see what it yields. Akin to daydreaming, which research has shown to be an active state of brain function, boredom can even be a great motivator. Instead of filling every minute of your day with activity that might prohibit the possibilities for boredom, take a risk on being bored, and see what happens.
Maybe we should see being bored as the transitional state it is - a brief period between completing one activity or process, and starting the next. A welcome pause. An opportunity for reflection. A moment to collect and re-focus our thoughts. No more nor less than that. And certainly not something that has to be fought against.


  1. Very timely (my last but one blog post mused on the avoidance of boredom in my particular situation!) and thought-provoking. Thank you!

  2. Einstein himself would applause!In his bio he states that these moments of "creative boredom" were decisive for much that he actually SOUGHT them out, such as working on a boring desk job of patents in Bern, Switzerland, so his mind could also have the QUIET and "fly on a beam of light." And, of course,let's not forget the famous "imagination is greater than knowledge" theme.

    Growing up mother never let us watch TV, except Saturday morning cartoons. I was a straight A student, plus played music on the side and had LOTS of friends, plus slept early. No I-pods, no gadgets, no nothing...was a happy? You bet! :>